Science Denier Anthony Watts Wants Your Financial Help

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Anthony Watts, the famous climate science denier, is all a titter that he is presenting at the upcoming American Geophysical Union meetings.

First, I want to say, good for you, Anthony. Nothing wrong with a science denier going to a major international meeting that includes a lot of climate science and giving a poster. That is how these things work, this is a place to challenge the science. The establishment will not attempt to keep you away because they want you to be there, to make a contribution. I hope you get a lot of great feedback, and enjoy your trip to San Francisco.

Also, climate change is a pretty important issue in San Francisco.

“A slow-moving emergency” is how state assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) describes the threat of rising seas in the Bay Area. According to Inside Bay Area, Gordon authored California’s first report on climate-related flooding, and his findings reveal a region woefully unprepared to manage water damage.

Per Inside Bay Area, San Francisco Bay rose 8 inches over the past century and could rise another 16 to 55 inches by 2100. Torrential storms and “king tides” could overwhelm infrastructure that’s not designed to withstand major flooding. Making matters worse is California’s own gradually eroding coastline. Coastal communities such as Pacifica have become media flashpoints thanks to images of houses literally slipping off of cliffs.

Anthony notes that he is a “member in good standing” of the AGU. That is nice. I am unaware of a “member not in good standing” category for the AGU, but maybe there is one.

Anthony is asking for donations to help him go to the AGU meetings. Previous years, he attended the AGU’s as a member of the “press” so he did not have to register. But this year, as a presenter, he has to pay the registration fee. He notes:

The cost of registration is $455, and the deadline is November 12th at 1159PM EDT to get that rate.

Add a hotel for 5-6 days at the typical $150-250 per night rate in SFO, plus incidentals, parking, etc. and the cost to attend easily tops $3000.

So, here’s the math:

Watts_AGU_Budget

I’m only kidding, of course, about the hookers. The chocolate makes sense, tho. Plus attending a couple of San Francisco’s great venues, taking a cab around the hilly city, maybe a trip up to Marin county for the redwoods. One could easily spend a thousand or two beyond food and shelter, and the registration costs. Certainly, if you support the idea of Anthony Watts attending AGU as a presenter and having his say, go and donate! And don’t begrudge him the extra cash to make the best of the trip.

Anthony makes some hay of the fact that his poster was accepted, indicating that this gives his poster some sort of credibility. However, posters are not especially vetted, and are certainly not peer reviewed. The AGU is huge, there are thousands of posters presented (this year, more than 23,000 oral and poster presentations, probably more than half are posters), and there is virtually no selection process. This is how it generally works with posters at huge meetings, and that is appropriate. It does not serve science in general to be too picky about these things … let the ideas abound! But also, let’s not assume any sort of stamp of approval, because there isn’t one. Indeed, sometimes a proposed talk is not accepted and instead you get to give a poster as a consolation prize.

Anthony also says he was “invited” to the conference. I’ve not done AGU, but I’ve heard that if a poster is accepted (and generally it will be), you get an “invitation,” probably by email, to the conference. The reason for the invitation is to bring a document to your academic department or employer to justify your time and possibly expenses, so your trip to the conference is not counted against your vacation time, or so you can dip into this or that pool of travel money to help cover your costs.

There are actual “invited” speakers. This is limited to a small number and are generally high level people talking about current important research. They usually get more minutes for their talk. Although I think posters could be “invited” in this sense, I understand that to be very rare. Anthony is not giving an “invited” poster, even if he happens to have a gracious email or letter of some kind.

Also, Anthony claims to be the only denier at the conference. That just isn’t true. Of the thousands of people attending the conference, there will be three or four deniers.

I’m being bit cynical here, for good reason. I do support Anthony’s attendance and I’m sure he’ll have a good time. But a lot of people who read Anthony’s blog have little actual conference experience and may not know how utterly routine giving a poster at the AGU is, and about the invitation bit. And about the chocolate.

By the way, his poster abstract can be seen on his blog post (linked to above). It is about heat island effects.


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44 thoughts on “Science Denier Anthony Watts Wants Your Financial Help

  1. Perhaps Watts will wander around the halls with a secret camera, getting video of the conspirators who are making war against Christmas. I cannot imagine any other reason he would wish to go, except to pretend there are sane people who want to hear what he has to say.

  2. You get an invitation letter if you confirm that you’ll be going after you submit to present a poster and it is accepted:
    “Letter of invitations are to assist international attendees in obtaining their VISA or to obtain permission to attend the AGU Fall Meeting. They are not required to download or share.”

    Federal employees get $74.00 a day for meals and incidental expenses in San Francisco. If Watts is spending less than $1,200 on travel and parking then he’s getting to spend more than most of those scientists who’re part of the conspiracy because they want more money.

  3. Greg, you are being a bit unfair, and maybe unfamiliar with just how obscene San Francisco costs are.

    Hotels near the Moscone Center are running upwards of $350/night during the AGU (I just checked on Orbitz). Add in airfare of anywhere from $500 to $1000 (depending on where AW is), and another $300-500 in cab fares for the week, and you get to $3K very very quickly. That’s if you eat at McDonald’s for just one meal per day, and rely on the conference coffee breaks for breakfast and lunch.

    Be snarky, please! As snarky as you want, but at least direct the snark where it matters 🙂

  4. Considering it is the American Geophysical Union, wouldn’t bourbon be more at a premium than whores? Just based on demand vs. supply, I mean.

    1. Dean: “Desertphile, it used to be scotch at American statistical society meetings, but the rest of your comment is spot on.”

      Oddly enough, petroleum geologists tend to walk around with a cheeseburger in their pockets. I have observed that phenomena several times.

  5. Also, he’s coming from Chico, so he’s probably driving, which is probably why he needs parking (you’d be an idiot to rent a car just to go to the conference). On the other hand, valet parking at most hotels runs $40-$60/night so you can add another $200-$300 to his costs for that.

    Of course, if rooms are available he could stay at the bay bridge inn for less than $200/night and they have free parking and the street people between there and Moscone are entertaining. The half-mile or so walk would be good for him 🙂

  6. Re. deniers in general, ISTM they are becoming a bit scarcer in the comment threads of science blogs such as this one. Looking back 2 years at threads from Greg’s, ATTP, Tamino, etc., one sees more frequent appearances by the usual suspects than now, it seems.

    I wonder if you have noticed any such trend, Greg. Have they been dismayed by two hot years in a row? Are they just getting tired of carrying spears for fossil fuel in the face of unremitting evidence against them? Or have bloggers just tightened up the moderation?

  7. Well, I’ve been to a few conferences in SF, and I never spent $3,000, even on the occasion that I stayed around for an extra two days for one of them.

    1. Greg Laden: “Well, I’ve been to a few conferences in SF, and I never spent $3,000, even on the occasion that I stayed around for an extra two days for one of them.”

      What…. you purchased only bargain-rate hookers?

  8. Travel to and from could easily exceed $1,000, speaking as someone who pays for most of her own conferences and thus attends very few.

    But yes, presenting a poster isn’t usually super brag-worthy. Speakers, especially headline speakers, are selected with care, and spots are competitive. Poster sessions tend to have plenty of spots, and at most conferences, any reasonably interesting abstract tends to get accepted.

  9. Price calculations:
    As noted, SF is less than 3 hours from Chico, but RIchmond, CA is 2 hrs 30 minutes.
    Richmond Hotels, $60-100/night...

    Then each day, park at Richmond BART station, don’t know cost offhand, but $2-3 typical.
    Take BART to Powell St, 38 minutes.
    Round-Trip = $9.
    Powell St BART is within a block or two of Moscone.

    There are of course lots of other places to stay in East Bay, near enough to BART stations.

    Quite seriously: SF is expensive, but nowhere is it written than one has to drive there and stay in the hotels there, and the fact that Moscone is near several BARTs makes that easy on that end. One can still go out to dinner, see people … and then go back to hotel.

  10. @ lots of you 🙂

    Chico?!? Reallly? Well, okay then. No airfare, $120 gas (three full tanks), $40/night parking, probably $75/day meals (I’m being generous), $200/night hotel (sorry, Greg, I thought that was your figure, not his). That tops out at about $2k.

    Yeah, $3k for just a poster session is stretching it. Maybe he needs the cash to print all the extra copies of his poster to hand out to everyone? Or for a big night out at Asia SF?

  11. Michael: I still claim that if money mattered to him, it would make little sense to drive to SF, park a car there for 5 days, and stay in hotel there.

    $240K (hotel+parking) goes to $80/day for RIchmond hotel, BART, parking. or might get closer Oakland hotel.
    That’s saving $160.day, $800 for 5 days.

    I drive up to AGU each day from Portola Valley, but usually I stop at Daly CIty or one of the other BART stations and go in from there. Works fine, it would be quicker from Richmond than P.V.

  12. I agree hotels aren’t cheap, but he should be getting conference discounts. And for all the people who are adding thousands of dollars for travel, Anthony Watts said he’s driving “to save airfares”. He lives in Chico – a mere 170 miles (274 km) away. (I can’t find any flights from Chico to SF.)

    A 3 hour drive both ways would set him back a total of, what – maybe $100 including snacks?

    The main problem he has is he doesn’t deliver on his promises of reporting. Not that that’s a problem at WUWT. I think they just view it as an opportunity to compensate him for giving them a notice board to write their random thoughts, and for all the (freeby) guest articles he posts

  13. It’s much easier to go to a conference and embarrass oneself on other people’s money than it is to go to a conference and embarrass oneself on one’s own money.
    If Anthony really believed in his cause, he should be a man and stump up the dosh himself, then bask in the adulation of his hangers on.

  14. Hotel choices at conference rates are quite limited, and may not be available the full week. I ended up booking through Expedia.

    Government per diem rates are $250 (plus tax) for the hotel and $71 for meals and incidental expenses–call it $350 per night, or $1750 total. Plus $455 for the registration fee, around $200 at the IRS rate to drive roundtrip from Chico (plus tolls on the Bay Bridge and Carquinez Bridge), and $250 to park the car for a week. That puts us close to $2700 without any hanky-panky.

    San Francisco has gotten a lot more expensive recently. Two or three years ago it was easy to get hotel rooms for under $200 a night in respectable locations close to the Moscone Center. This year, I think a lot of people going to AGU for the whole week will spend $3000 or more. Especially those who have side meetings before or after the meeting (I have a side meeting on the Sunday of that week).

  15. Golly, I had no idea San Francisco cost so much money just to park, let alone stay in a hotel. The past conference I attended (Tony Hillerman Writer’s Conference), I slept in my car and napped in a linen closet; if Watts is so desperate to appear to be conflated with scientists, he should be willing to sleep on the street like thousands of homeless in the city do.

    Is it not arrogant to ask complete strangers for money to attend a conference?

  16. Dessertphile: I think it is great Anthony is asking for his readers to send him $3,000. Great use of their money.

    By the way, glancing at his blog, it is clear that he’s made well over $3,000 assuming all the pledges are for real and come through. He’s in the money!

  17. Anthony lives in Chico CA – a 3 hrs from SF. If I were worried about funds, I’d drive and save on the airfare & car rental. Besides, with check in, security and boarding times it would probably take longer to fly.

  18. Help me out.
    Everybody keeps arguing about SF hotel+parking costs.

    Can you explain to me why you all reject the Richmond/BART solution for Anthony?

  19. “Can you explain to me why you all reject the Richmond/BART solution for Anthony?”

    Because Anthony wants to attend in style, otherwise he wouldn’t be asking for $3K? 🙂

    Also, BART is heavily used by a cross-section of Bay Area residents that I feel perfectly at home with but … Anthony might not?

    Of course, Clever Tony might do just as you suggest and pocket the difference between those low costs and the money he raises.

  20. Can you explain to me why you all reject the Richmond/BART solution for Anthony?

    Well, maybe this doesn’t apply to Anthony, but for most scientists, an important part of going to meetings is what happens after hours. Many projects have been launched over dinner at the AGU meeting.

    I tried commuting to a meeting in Boston once. It’s difficult to pull off for a week-long meeting (many of the Bay Area locals I know only attend certain days for exactly this reason). But at least I can see the argument for commuting to a meeting when you’re local–that’s your own bed you’re sleeping in. Unless you are doing something like staying with friends in Berkeley, you don’t really get anything out of commuting from a hotel in Richmond.

    On top of that, as dhogaza@32 mentioned, Anthony just might be the sort of person who doesn’t do public transportation. I’ve noticed a correlation between climate denialism and opposition to mass transit (admittedly, my sample size is small).

  21. Eric is right. You want to stay in a hotel that is as close to the conference as possible.

    Maybe John wants Anthony to not be hanging around so much!

  22. I prefer staying in the hotel hosting the conferences! (It’s usually worth spending extra $$, but often you’ll get a break on the price — book early, duh!)

  23. Brainstorms: 24,000+ people come to this, it’s not like a conference that is “at” one hotel, where indeed one would want to stay.

    Eric: yes, I know. I usually have evening meetings almost every night, and wouldn’t miss them.

    But consider that some of the hotels in AGU list are up near North Beach, whose travel times by car (Google) are 14-30 minutes. It’s not clear why that’s vastly better than taking the BART somewhere. Not that many hotels are on the same side of Market as Moscone.

    Of course it’s nice to stay right near the conference.
    It’s just that for somebody with a car, driving into SF and leaving it sitting there for 5 days is not a plus, and one really has to think about the nonlinearities of distance versus time, given BART, and whether one does anything at the hotel besides sleep.

    I picked Richmod as an example, since closest to Chico.
    But one could do OK in Oakland as well, and be closer.

    But anyway, for anyone coming to SF on a tight budget, seriously think about hotel options outside of the Moscone area, but near a BART.

  24. Greg: staying close to conference is good …
    but remember, this is a 20K person+ conference, so it’s not like everybody is staying in a few hotels close together.
    It is useful if you think you need to go back to your room during the day, and maybe if you have breakfast meetings with somebody handy … but otherwise, you just meet someplace near the conference.

  25. I just stayed, during a mega conference in San Diego, for less than 125 a night for two people, at a B&B so it included breakfast, and all the other people staying there were also at the conference.

    Too bad I wasn’t there for that conference!

    There are prob some options like that in SF priced up just a bit

    Anyway, a hotel at the conference site is 179.

  26. A few minutes ago I looked at the Watts blog entry. By the gods, it *DOES* say “in good standing.” Gosh, that’s hilarious! So… the American Geophysical Union has moral purity dicta one must follow to be a member? What— it’s immoral to add one too many principle components than necessary to an analysis, which makes a member not “in good standing?” What infidelity makes a not-good-standing member? Pocketing the little packets of sugar during the keynote luncheon presentation?

    “I’m sorry, Mister Watts, but I saw you hoist a tea spoon during the presentation about the Dynamics of Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park. You are now a member in bad standing (MiBS). Hand over the spoon, and follow Security to the nearest exit.” — Dr. Margaret Leinen

  27. @Desertphile: I suspect that “member in good standing” means that the credit card number he gave in order to pay his membership fee for the current year was valid.

    @Greg: If the $179 hotel option was the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway, then no, that hotel is not near the conference site. It’s some distance up Van Ness Ave. (I don’t recall without looking at the map which cross street, but it’s well north of California St.), comparable in distance to the various hotels offered in the North Beach/Fisherman’s Wharf area. That hotel has long been offered for those attendees who are willing to accept a long daily walk in order to get cheaper digs. The difficulty with the Fisherman’s Wharf options is that they aren’t that much cheaper than hotels in the Union Square or SoMa areas. And no, most AGU attendees (apart from commuting locals) are not going to drive between their hotel and the meeting site–that second parking spot gets expensive really fast. So does taking a taxi every day.

    I’m not sure why they don’t offer more options in SoMa. Part of it is historical (SoMa used to be a very sketchy neighborhood, especially west of Fifth St., but has gentrified considerably in the last decade). Part of it is the elevated freeway (the westernmost part of I-80) that runs a couple blocks to the south, although there are some attractions on the other side (PacBell Park and the Caltrain station) that should have attracted a few hotels.

    But I think the real problem is that the agency AGU contracted with to find hotel rooms for conference attendees doesn’t know their market. Many business convention people are happy to play tourist on their days off, so they find a location in Fisherman’s Wharf convenient for that kind of thing. They are also more willing to charge cab fare to the company. But AGU attendees are not typical convention goers. One of the urban legends is that many of the local high-end call girls plan their vacations for AGU week, since few AGU attendees are both interested in and able to afford their services. Likewise, most conference goers want to be reasonably close to the conference site–as I noted above, the social aspects are important for many conference attendees. And we tend to walk or use BART as much as we can.

  28. Math was never Watts strong suit, he only has high school diploma, right?

    Isn’t this precisely what the denial community ‘claims’ scientists are doing? Living high off the hog… enjoying campaign and chocolate?

    Oh to be a silly rich denier.

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